The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to win two games in a row for the first time since opening 2015-16 with three-straight victories.
To do so, the Lightning will have to carry over their play from the final 10 minutes of Thursday’s 3-1 win over Calgary into tonight’s meeting with the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said his team did a number of things well in the latter stages of the Calgary game that need to continue.
“We really competed hard, but we competed much smarter,” Cooper said. “We weren’t turning pucks over. We were playing the whole 200 feet of the rink. The puck was going from our end to their end seamlessly. We were in on the forecheck. If we had to chip pucks in, we were getting them back. And to be honest, we were shooting the puck more.”
Calgary led the Lightning 23-18 in shots after the second period and 29-21 with under 10 minutes to go before Cooper said he challenged his team to finish with more shots than the Flames.
The Lightning came close. Calgary held a 31-29 shots advantage at the end of the game. But the Bolts were ahead where it counted most.
In the goals column.
Tampa Bay scored twice over the final eight minutes to pull away for the 3-1 victory.
“I liked that,” Cooper said. “We just got more of a shoot mentality, and we were way more responsible with the puck.”
Lightning assistant captain Ryan Callahan said his positive takeaway from Thursday’s win was the way the Bolts clamped down on the Flames after pulling in front on Steven Stamkos’ power-play goal.
“We didn’t give them too many chances once we got the lead,” Callahan said. “That’s the kind of third period you want at home and when you have the lead.”
On Friday, the Lightning swapped defensemen with Syracuse, reassigning Nikita Nesterov to the Crunch while recalling Matt Taormina.
Taormina has played in nine games with the Lightning over the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons but spent all of last year with Worcester of the AHL.
In 10 games with Syracuse this season, Taormina has scored two goals, had three assists and was plus-four.
“I think as of the past couple weeks, I’ve been a lot more comfortable with the puck, a lot more confident with the puck,” Taormina said. “I think defensively I’ve played pretty well. My plus-minus has been fairly good. I’ve been playing in a lot of situations, so that kind of means you’ve been doing something right if you’re getting those opportunities.”
Taormina said he learned he was getting the callup to the Lightning during pregame of the Crunch’s game against Binghamton in Syracuse.
“I took pregame skate with the guys and just got ready to come here,” Taormina said. “It’s difficult because you never know what’s going to happen, you don’t know if you’re going to be in the lineup here. You just have to adjust. I’ve been around enough times to know to go with the flow.”
Taormina has played in 56 NHL games over four seasons with the Lightning and New Jersey Devils.
NAMESTNIKOV MOVES UP
Third-year pro Vladislav Namestnikov was shifted up to the top line prior to Tampa Bay’s victory over Calgary on Thursday and did well enough in that role to earn more shifts with Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan.
Today at morning skate, Namestnikov was again the left wing on the top line with Callahan on the right and Stamkos centering. Cooper said Namestnikov would continue to get a look with that pair as the Lightning experiment with line combinations to generate more offense.
“He did some good things out there,” Cooper said of Namestnikov’s performance on Thursday. “He put Stammer in a couple really good positions to score. Stammer got some good chances out of it. They didn’t go in the net, but he’s got really good vision on the ice. He can retrieve pucks and make some plays.”
Namestnikov only got more than 12 minutes of ice time once in the Lightning’s first nine games. Since then, he’s played over 12 minutes in six of his last nine.
“He’s earned the right to play some more, and we’ve got to find him a way,” Cooper said. “Right now, it’s on that line with Stammer and Callahan, and I thought they did a heck of a job the other night. Hopefully that continues.”
Ben Bishop was the first goalie off the ice this morning and will likely start tonight vs. Florida. Bishop will start back-to-back games for the first time since getting the nod against Colorado (Oct. 29) and Boston (Oct. 31)…Bishop’s last regular season shutout came against Florida, a 4-0 Lightning win last season on April 4…The Lightning and Panthers play five times this season. Following tonight’s first matchup, the Bolts travel to Sunrise for the second half of a home-and-home on Monday…Tampa Bay has killed 35-of-39 opponent power plays over the last 13 games and is 89.7% on the PK during that stretch…Tampa Bay won three of four against Florida last season, including both games at Amalie Arena…Three of the four games between Tampa Bay and Florida last season were decided by one goal.